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Monday, 01 August 2011 00:00

Astarotte's Toy

Mmmm, humble pie. Tasty. I went off the deep end when I did my First Thoughts piece on Astarotte's Toy, based on the decidedly dodgy premise that underpins the series (more of that later). I'm pleased to say that, 12 episodes later, the series has turned out to be rather different from its initial billing. But that's not to say that it's actually good, though...

Naoya has been taken to a magical land, where he is to enter into the harem of succubus Princess Lotte. He's not about to find himself used to sexual favours, though - due to trauma during her childhood, she positively hates men and surrounds herself with women whenever possible. Being a succubus still has certain... requirements, though, and it's Naoya's role to to be there when the time comes for Lotte to fill them. But all is not as it seems: Naoya, ten years earlier, had fallen to the advances of a more mature woman - a woman who became mother to his daughter, Asuha, before leaving him to look after her. Turns out that Asuha's mother is also in the realm of the succubi - and is rather closely related to Naoya's new boss...

Right. Humble pie. Here's a snippet of what I wrote back after watching episode one:

Part of the basic premise of this has me worried. Astarotte (or Lotte, to those close to her) is expected to carry out the duties that go along with her role as a succubus: primarily, extracting the "life seed" from males. While it's not made explicitly clear in the anime, "life-seed" is a euphemism for semen, and the method of extraction is sucking it out - I leave the rest to your imagination. Lotte is now 10 and, since her mother was happily sucking off every male in range at that age, the same is expected of Lotte. On the surface, that sounds crass, wrong, and a quite epic level of just-don't-go-there.

Put that way, the underlying premise of Astarotte's Toy does sound dodgy in the extreme. Or, as one commenter on the First Thoughts post put it:

now THIS is a series i can fap to

Sorry to disappoint you, but uh, no. Turns out to be nothing of the sort. The above premise is referred to a few times during the series, and there's one scene late-season where poor Lotte's being lined up to finally do the deed, but nothing ever comes of it. It's just there, under the surface, waiting to pop up every so often and creep you out. Back up on the surface, though, what we have here is a sweet and touching series about the meaning of family, and the effect that absence (most notably in the case of Lotte's mother, the queen) can have on your children. The years they're growing up through are valuable, the series is saying (and quite rightly so), and you don't want to miss them. This is something that both Lotte and Asuha have experience of, and the series spends a lot of time showing them dealing with the consequences of it.

Friendship also comes into the mix quite heavily, with Asuha helping Lotte break out of her shell and act more like a normal girl, instead of like someone who quite literally has been a prisoner in an ivory tower for most of her life. As royalty, Lotte never felt able to mix with her classmates, or with those around her outside of her mansion staff - under the persuasion of both Asuha and Naoya, though, she's learning that that's not the case, and she's a much happier young girl as a result.

As mentioned, though, there's still a certain amount of creepiness left, even when the whole sucking issue is put to one side. The series ends without any real resolution, but it's clearly heading in the direction of making Lotte and Naoya a couple (which would leave Lotte both Asuha's half-sister and step-mother - figure that one out), which is a rather uncomfortable concept. There's also a constant level of fanservice, between Lotte's regular pantsu-flashes and Asuha's nopan crusade, that doesn't feel right when the girls involved are meant to be only 10. It's just not right, guys, however, low-level you try to be with it.

I can't bring myself to slate the series, though, because what it's trying to do with the subject of family is good, important stuff, and a message I wholeheartedly agree with. It's just a shame that the message is wrapped in a package that's simply going to put too many people off. Something of a wasted opportunity.

Rating - ***